Tax breaks for rooftop solar in South Africa come with a big catch

 ·22 Feb 2023

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana has announced that National Treasury will be providing tax incentives and tax relief to South African businesses and households to encourage a rapid move to renewable energy.

This will include a massive rebate for businesses launching renewable energy projects and a smaller incentive for private households.

Through these two incentives, the Treasury said it would be offering R4 billion in relief provided for individuals that install solar panels and R5 billion to companies through an expansion of the renewable energy tax incentive.

For private households, individuals who install rooftop solar panels from 1 March 2023 will be able to claim a rebate of 25% of the cost of the panels, up to a maximum of R15,000.

“This can be used to reduce their tax liability in the 2023/24 tax year. This incentive will be available for one year,” the minister said.

To qualify, the solar panels must be purchased and installed at a private residence, and a certificate of compliance for the installation must be issued from 1 March 2023 to 29 February 2024.

The rebate is only available for solar PV panels, and not inverters or batteries, to focus on the promotion of additional generation.

In a practical example, Treasury said an individual who purchases 10 solar panels at a cost of R40,000 could reduce their personal income tax liability for the 2023/24 tax year by R10,000.

A different person is able to buy 20 panels at a cost of R4,000 per panel (so total cost of R80 000). The calculation of 25% adds up to R20,000, but they can only claim R15 ,000.

Other caveats to the solar incentive include:

  • Only new and unused solar PV panels qualify to ensure that the capacity is in addition to what the country already has in place. The panels can be installed as part of a new system, or as an extension of an existing system.
  • Only solar PV panels with a minimum capacity of 275W per panel (design output) qualify for the rebate.
  • Other components of a system – batteries, inverters, fittings or diesel generators – and installation costs do not qualify. Portable panels will also not qualify.
  • Solar PV panels must be installed at a residence that is mainly used by an individual for domestic purposes. The installation will have to be proved with a certificate of compliance in terms of the Electrical Installation Regulations, 2009 to ensure safety of the installation and compliance to electric regulations.
  • The solar PV panels must form part of a system that is connected to the mains distribution of the private residence

Renewable tax breaks for businesses

According to the minister, from 1 March 2023, businesses will be able to reduce their taxable income by 125% of the cost of an investment in renewables.

“There will be no thresholds on the size of the projects that qualify, and the incentive will be available for two years to stimulate investment in the short term,” he said.

The current incentive allows businesses to deduct the costs of qualifying investments over a one- or three-year period, which creates a cash flow benefit in the early years of a

Businesses are able to deduct 50% of the costs in the first year, 30% in the second and 20% in the third for qualifying investments in wind, concentrated solar, hydropower below 30 megawatts (MW), biomass and photovoltaic (PV) projects above 1 MW. Investors in PV projects below 1 MW are able to deduct 100% of the cost in the first year.

Under the expanded incentive, businesses will be able to claim a 125% deduction in the first year for all renewable energy projects with no thresholds on generation capacity.

The adjusted incentive will only be available for investments brought into use for the first time between 1 March 2023 and 28 February 2025.

“For a business with positive taxable income, the deduction will reduce its tax liability. For example, a renewable energy investment of R1 million would qualify for a deduction of R1.25 million. Using the current corporate tax rate, this deduction could reduce the corporate income tax liability of a company by R337,500 in the first year of operation,” Treasury said.

Other measures

In addition to these two measures, the government will also be moving ahead with the rejigging of the so-called “bounce back” scheme announced in 2022.

Godongwana said that changes to the Bounce Back Loan Guarantee Scheme are also proposed to incentivize renewable energy and rooftop solar and address energy-related constraints experienced by small and medium enterprises.

“Government will guarantee solar-related loans for small and medium enterprises on a 20% first-loss basis,” he said.

National Treasury will launch the Energy Bounce Back Scheme in April 2023.

“The energy and electricity sector, here at home and globally, is undergoing a rapid process of systemic change. Green technologies are becoming cheaper, and the deployment of low-carbon
solutions is accelerating,” the minister said.

“We recognise that we have a role to play in encouraging adaptation and mitigation.”

In addition to the tax measures to promote investments in renewable energy, Godongwana also announced that the general fuel levy and the Road Accident Fund levy will not be increased this year.

And to ease the impact of the electricity crisis on food prices, the refund on the Road Accident Fund levy for diesel used in the manufacturing process, such as for generators, will be extended to manufacturers of foodstuffs.

This takes effect from 1 April 2023 for two years.

Read: Warning over rooftop solar tax breaks in South Africa

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